My Students’ Blog

Building and Maintaining Relationships

By Teaguen Weise

Graduating high school is a huge accomplishment and step towards a lifetime you have yet to create. The real world is full of challenges, unknowns, and enjoyment. In order to get the enjoyment from these experiences, there are a lot of skills that are necessary for comfortable survival. Relationship management skills are necessary skills to know. 

Relationship management skills are your interpersonal communication skills. The article Relationship Management: The Fourth Pillar of Emotional Intelligence, by Dr. Zimmerman says, “It is about your ability to get the best out of others, your ability to inspire and influence them, your ability to communicate and build bonds with them, and your ability to help them change, grow, develop, and resolve conflict.”

Good relationship management skills will allow you to build and maintain long lasting relationships throughout your lifetime.

Relationship management is something that is often overlooked. I did not even realize that it was a skill until I began making connections with people in a more professional/personal way. As you begin your experiences throughout life, you will get a job, have a boss and coworkers, create lifelong deep friendships, and perhaps find yourself in a committed intimate relationship as well. Knowing how to separate these types of relationships is not something that is taught in high school or even talked about. 

The goal of relationship management is to have the knowledge and ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. 

There are a lot of issues that could prevent someone from building or keeping a relationship. The four largest barriers are individual, relational, community, and societal issues. Individual issues could be anything from trauma to mental health issues, to being unwilling to try. Relational issues include a lack of parental guidance/support, poor communication skills, a lack of empathy, and lack of time for one another. Community issues are barriers due to housing, transportation, language, or technology. Lastly, societal issues include political influences, biases (including racial), negative societal norms, or a negative environment in general. If you would like to read more about the issues that could be preventing you from building or keeping relationships, click here

So how does one go about developing good relationship skills? There are several key things to remember when trying to improve your relationship skills. These include developing effective communication and understanding/portraying empathy and consideration.

Developing effective communication is an incredibly common skill, but one that a lot of people find very difficult. Something you can do to improve your communication skills is to listen to others. By listening to others, you will learn more things about what interests them, which will make conversations more involved. The next thing is to know who you are talking to. Understand the education/knowledge level of the person you are speaking to. You would not say the same things to your mom that you would say to your boss. Another important thing to practice is to think before you speak. Sometimes it is easy to immediately respond to something someone said without thinking. This can lead to saying something you did not mean to say. It is important to think before you speak. After all, you can’t take back something once you say it. If you would like to learn more about this topic, click here.

Empathy is a harder skill to learn. According to scientists in the article, The ability to feel empathy-or not- is shaped by your genes, the effect of genetics on behavior is approximately 30%. Empathy is the capacity to understand and share feelings with others. Although it is harder to build good empathy skills, it is still very possible. One way to strengthen empathy skills is to share your feelings and be open to others sharing theirs. This does not mean spilling your whole life to a complete stranger, but rather opening up when you can. For instance, I am a very private person when it comes to my feelings about situations, but I understand the lack of relatability when I do not share important things with people who are close to me. I encourage you to reach out to those who are close to you.

This image by texsydney.com is a great example of how speaking to others could help collect and destress your thoughts. 

Crystal West, a counselor and past-teacher at Mossyrock High School stressed the importance of relationships in her career. Her advice is to be approachable. “A student’s success is as strong as the relationship with the teacher.” Mrs. West claims one of the best things you can do is to try to mirror what you want from the other person. If you want respect, you have to display that. Everyone could learn something from Mrs. West, as being a counselor has provided her with the knowledge and experience to be very successful in building and maintaining relationships.

Believe me, I know how scary relationships can be. Interacting with others can be stressful, depressive, or even feel impossible to some. Practicing these skills and finding a way to feel confident in developing relationships is incredibly important. You have to find what works for you. For example, when I need to have a serious, confrontational, or professional talk with someone, I write everything I am going to say before I send the email or speak to them. After all, “Communication works for those who work at it,” said John Powell. Good relationship management skills will allow you to build and maintain long lasting relationships throughout your lifetime. These are especially important during such a unique time in history. Help the future generations, be a role model, learn good relationship management skills, because every person can make a difference. 

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